A Bibliophile

Kunk Fu Zoby Kung Fu Zu6/10/15
I am a person who loves books. Not just the contents of books, but the actual appearance, shape and feel of them. I love the smell of a newly printed book, especially one bound in leather, as one can sometimes find in special editions. When I walk into a library, I see a room full of friends and am overcome with a calm sense of well being. These faithful and patient companions accompany me through life at the pace I choose.  They don’t become bored if I sit silently and ponder a thing. There is no fidgeting if I stop and go back to re-read a passage.

These friends have a vast amount of experience and are willing to impart this to me without asking anything in return. All that is required is for me to take the time and effort to pull one of these pals off the shelf and hold him or her in the palm of my hand.

Some of these friends will disappoint me, yet I can avoid them in future without any fear of reproach. Others will surpass anything I expected and take me to places never before imagined. And they will do this for me over and over and over again. Yet they never express dissatisfaction or a feeling of abuse.

If I am clever, all of life’s perils and the multitude of humanity’s mistakes are there for me to see. The lessons of life are there to be learned without having to suffer the consequences others have endured. Of course, no one escapes all of life’s blunders, but if I have an open mind and am paying attention, many problems can be avoided by listening to my books.

Parents die, siblings and friends may grow distant and difficult to reach, but books are a constant and at my beck and call. I am required only to open the front leaf and start reading.

In the end, books are an eternal record of those who came before. They are part of the panoply of humanity. Whether in quarto, octavo or today’s Kindle, they are personal fragments of human experience which others have left behind for one to enjoy and profit from. Whether or not one does so, depends entirely upon one’s self. • (2176 views)

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35 Responses to A Bibliophile

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This is one of the better essays that I’ve ever read.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    The smell of books obviously means nothing to me, since I effectively have no sense of smell. I can appreciate the appearance to some extent. But mainly I love them for the contents, even though there’s no telling in some cases when I’ll finally get around to reading them.

    One book I bought and read many years ago was titled Biblioholism. (It may no longer be available due to flooding from sewer backflow.) I think a good working definition of biblioholism would be buying books about it.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I avoid bookstores these days. There was a time when I would go into a book store with the intention of buying one particular book, but when all was said and done, I would walk out with 9 or 10.

      I believe one of the most enjoyable jobs would be to have a small bookshop full of hardcover books, including lots of leather bound reference books. I would not have any current best sellers.

      • Rosalys says:

        Don’t give up your day job. I think your book store may turn out to be a financial failure as you may not be able to part with any of them!

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I would only be able to do this if I were a millionaire. I know the type of books I would like to associate with would not be big sellers.

          But what a wonderful working environment it would be. Beautiful art on the walls, good music sometimes and a hot cup of coffee. And educated intelligent visitors. Heaven.

          I guess I’ll just have to stick with my library.

      • Steve Lancaster says:

        That is exactly the way I felt when my partner and I opened a small bookstore in Sacramento. Unfortunately we did that in 76 and the incoming Carter administrations attempt to ruin small business. It worked the high interest rates, coupled with rising shipping costs took a significant part of our profit and operating cash. I sold out to my partner for the flip of a coin, he got to keep the store. I walked away. I am still not sure which of us really won the coin toss.

        Today there is no way that a small general trade bookseller can compete with Amazon, especially the Kindle services. I can walk out my door with my iPad or iPhone and carry a personal library of over 300 books, pages marked, highlighted and notated. I can search that library in 30 seconds or so for a quote. Amazon has made the old style bookshop irrelevant in a technology age. I will miss them, just let me look up that quote, from . . .

  3. Glenn Fairman says:

    As the august bookseller has faded into memory where I live, I rely on Amazon for my diet of words. This is a good thing, since the pedigree of books I desire are generally absent from the banal shelves of the proletariat chains. Moreover, the reviews from previous buyers are more than helpful in guiding me where I wish to go. And yes, I buy too many books — some of which I may never read. As a wag noted, “They also serve who stand and wait.”
    And even with the 3.99 they charge for their s & h, I can often purchase a used book of premium quality and still retain some of my funds. A win-win for the frugal…..

    • Rosalys says:

      Myself, I love the public library. If it is in print, they’ll get it for me. Sometimes after reading the library copy, and finding I like it very much, I will buy it, usually from Amazon.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      Glen, get an Amazon Prime student account, $49 shipping is two day and free.
      All you need is a .edu email address. You also get prime movies and discounts on the entire Amazon bundle of services.

  4. Rosalys says:

    I have resisted getting a Kindle because I like the feel of a book in my hand. However, I may soon succumb to modernity and throw off my luddite tendencies as there is a book I want to read which is available only in E form.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I also resisted Kindle. But as I travel a fair amount and read a lot, it is easier to carry books on a Kindle than in my briefcase. Furthermore, all books written before something like 1923 are out of copyright, thus free, if you can find them online. Amazon and the Gutenberg Project have thousands of such books online to download.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Ditto on the Kindle, although note that a Kindle reading app is available for Mac, PC, Android, and, of course, Amazon’s Kindle hardware. That is, you don’t have to buy their brand, although their brand is outstanding. My sister-in-law loves her Fire.

      Speaking of the smell of books, one of the oddities of my disposition is that I’m very sensitive to the mold that can grow in and around old books. If the books are clean, I love the smell. If they’ve had some mold grow in and around them, I really have to watch it.

      But I concur with Mr. Kung about his Paradise Book Store (a suggested name) that he means to own. I’d work there for free if I could. I’d love to set something like that up whereby, why yes, we do sell books. But there’s always a couple lounges amenable to book discussions and lectures.

      And this would be (or could be) a private lending library of members only. A relatively small monthly due, and per-book charge, would allow you to check out any books that you’d like. No riffraff.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I like the name and ideas.

        Just after I graduated college, I thought about trying to set up a bookstore with a small lounge and a couple of tables. People would be able to buy hot drinks in actual earthenware or china cups and look through books they might wish to buy. This was 40 years ago and I have, obviously, never gotten round to it.

        • Anniel says:

          I would love the Paradise Bookstore, but some of the books would have to be current. Brad just put up the suggestion of a friend of “The Boys in the Boat.” I’d put it at one of the top books I have ever read. I decided I want to read it again, going slowly and savoring it, but I find myself almost frantically racing from chapter to chapter. I put it down last night trying to figure out if it’s Daniel James Brown’s writing style that causes this feeling, or if it’s the story itself.

          Love Kung Fu’s Essay.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          New books? New books?!! LOL. Okay, I guess Mr. Kung’s store (it would be his store) could have that.

          Book readings would be nice. You mentioned that you read “The Boys in the Boat” out loud to Mr. Bear. And because a love for books should be advocated, we’d have a one-a-week reading of children’s books for children and give a way a half dozen copies or so of some worthy children’s book. (We could probably beg the publisher for promotional discounts.)

          At the door would be a sign “Shirt or shoes are optional. We’re not that fussy as long as you recently had a bath…but turn off your damn cell phone and no texting unless you’re sharing thoughts on books.”

          That might be a little hardcore for Mr. Kung. I shouldn’t assume. LOL.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            At the door would be a sign “Shirt or shoes are optional

            Let’s not go off in left field here. But I think you idea of reading to children is a good idea.

            In fact, I believe two of the best books ever written are,

            “The Little Engine That Could”

            and

            “Horton Hatches the Egg”

            Both books teach wonderful lessons. “I think I can, I think I can” teaches the power of a positive attitude.

            Some years back I saw an interview with Peter Drucker and “The Little Engine that Could” took pride of place on his book stand with its front cover facing the camera. I saw that I was not the only person who thought the book a gem.

            As to Horton, what better example of steadfastness, constancy and responsibility than Horton, especially when compared to that lazy bird Mayzie.

            “I meant what I said
            and I said what I meant….
            An elephant’s faithful
            One hundred per cent!”

            This is someone you would want on your side in any type of adversity.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Actually, we do a fair amount of lending books to each other. In one case, a friend borrowed enough books that I charged a fee as well as making him leave a deposit (occasionally they get lost). We have occasionally joked about setting up as a lending library, since we probably have more books than many branches (though those do have access to books elsewhere).

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          If only we could find a way to do this virtually and save on the brick and mortar costs…although I do like the idea of a bookstore where the truly cultured (as opposed to posers and snobs) could meet and talk about books, share books, listen to readings of Horton, etc.

          For now, we do that here. And I have it in mind (I may be soliciting opinions on this in the future) to downplay the political aspect of this site (all articles on politics to go to the blog, for instance) and concentrate more on books, movies, and thoughtful essays such as this one by Mr. Kung (travelogues as well).

          If someone has something interesting to say about politics, then fine. But I think we’re often devolving to mere rants. And I include myself in that. So look for something like that to possibly occur in the future, likely sort of phased in. I don’t mean to be mean, and I’m not talking about anyone in particular (again, I include myself), but I get so little out of the various political rants. But it’s a gold mine in regards to the various book and movie reviews, as well as the occasional thoughtful and creative essay.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Mr. Kung has done something unusual in his essay. And I’d like to comment on it because, well, it’s one thing we’re supposed to be about here.

    He didn’t rant about how many stupid books are being published each year (and there are plenty) and the rate of illiteracy (which is probably much higher than it should be). He talked about his love of books in a poetic and sympathetic way. And he did it (I would say) without losing his manly-man status. 😀

    One of the funny things about the Left is that they hyperventilate about the idea of burning or banning books. And yet these are the same people dumbing-down our education system, who may keep the paper intact but are every day setting the torch to ideas, to creativity, and to wisdom.

    Books, as Mr. Kung said, are indeed the eternal record of those who came before. But Progressives, generally speaking, aren’t interested in what came before. Everything that came before these precious little snowflakes graced us with their exalted presence is, according to them, tainted by racism, sexism, and homophobia. So they need not look back. They need only go “forward.”

    Mr. Kung is not an idiot. He is not a nincompoop. He is not a thoughtless nitwit. And this is a shrinking category of people, if only because we are losing the wisdom of the ages. We are become a shallow people nearly incapable of dealing with simple, let alone complex, subjects.

    Books are the antidote to institutionalized stupidity and shallowness. True, one has to be choosy in choosing the books one reads, for the library is full of weeds as well as flowers. But with the desire to learn — and to be thoughtfully entertained as well — one will automatically come to seek out flowers, not weeds.

    Books, in their preponderance, dissolve all shallow thoughts, all simplistic solutions, and all destructive idealism. There is one book which says “There is nothing new under the sun.” And so this is so outside of obvious things such as technology. To learn how stupid and shallow we are right out of the package, so to speak, it takes the bravery to read a book to find out that most of the idealistic and world-beating thoughts we have in our head are almost all vapid and unworkable.

    Books tame our egos and teach us humility by imparting knowledge and wisdom. And no wisdom or knowledge can ever be imparted (are you listening libertarians?) if you think you know it all already.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Orson Scott Card, when he started reviewing for an SF magazine, said that he wouldn’t do negative reviews. He figured that a book wouldn’t get published unless it satisfied someone, so if he didn’t like it, that was just a difference in personal tastes.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Oh, I love negative reviews, Timothy. I’m commending Mr. Kung on his positive views regarding books. But the negative stuff is not only true as well, but highly entertaining. But ranting can become old. Every morning I scan the headlines of American Thinker. And nearly all the articles these days are a re-writes of the banal and the obvious (with some rare exceptions, which is why I still scan those headlines).

        I try hard (when I’m not in snark mode) to be objective. I’m effusive with praise and don’t hold back the trumpet of my criticism. No, not everyone shares the same taste, but I don’t believe that’s a valid excuse for not at least trying to give an objective opinion. We’ve all seen good movies and they’re no less good because some Cretin can’t appreciate it. There ought to be an attempt in reviews to hold to high standards while giving an objective opinion.

        It’s bad manners (especially at a free site such as this) for me to criticize someone’s submission, so I generally limit myself to praise. But for third parties, all bets are off. If I watch a movie, I owe it to the readers to give them a realistic opinion of what to expect. I don’t want to waste their time or money. And hiding behind a lame excuse such as “everyone has a personal taste” just doesn’t do it for me. And even this factor I try to take into account when reviewing something. You can let readers know “If you like this kind of movie” to get a point across.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Brad,

      I think it best to say thank you for the compliment and exit quietly.

      KFZ

  6. Glenn Fairman says:

    Books, in their preponderance, dissolve all shallow thoughts, all simplistic solutions, and all destructive idealism. There is one book which says “There is nothing new under the sun.” And so this is so outside of obvious things such as technology. To learn how stupid and shallow we are right out of the package, so to speak, it takes the bravery to read a book to find out that most of the idealistic and world-beating thoughts we have in our head are almost all vapid and unworkable.

    Reading — The sword by which we might become heroic…..

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Glenn, I’m just going to have to keep channeling you as best I can until you come back and give us the real thing. 😀

  7. Glenn Fairman says:

    You do well to channel yourself, Brad, as your craft grows stronger daily. As for me, My wife has been battling stage 4 endometrial cancer for several years, and it has again resurfaced, necessitating a new regimen of noxious chemotherapy. The time that remains for us is precious and finite, and if I could write and remain faithful to her needs I believe I would. Sometimes the greater good is to become small.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Sorry to hear this. I hope your wife comes through this period without too much pain and comes out healthy.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I have a friend who died last year. She was both a friend and someone who did part-time jobs for me for well over a 15 year period. We worked together often and spent hours together. Last time I saw her was when she made an unannounced visit to our office, as shriveled by cancer as a prune, barely recognizable as Kathy. She had battled this for years…once going into remission, but it had come back again.

      What can one say? She’s a very very Christian lady and would send out regular emails telling us of her progress in chemotherapy, etc., always ending with the thought, “I know the Lord is with me and I can rest in his hope.” There were other variations of this thought.

      Of course, she knew my generally uncertain views and accepted me all the same as the scalawag I am. And one of the last things I said to her was, “You’re going to see very soon whether or not God exists.” She deflected this thought saying “I’m not done here yet.” But she was. She died about two days later.

      And yet, now that I think of it, I think her journey is not at an end. Although many have “faith in God,” that faith usually has an Augustinian component: “Let me fall into your arms, oh Lord, but not just yet.” Faith is one thing. Leaving this world is another, and never would I consider Kathy a hypocrite or even a doubter. But there is that chasm. “Oh, I believe, of Lord, but not just yet.”

      One could say that religious faith is actually the realization that we are blind to the full extent of things. I wish for the full health and speedy recovery of Mrs. Fairman and will pray for that outcome and for Glenn’s peace of mind. But I can’t possibly know what is best or is the right course. Hold fast, Glenn, and hang on.

    • Glenn — I am so sorry. She will now take up residence on my prayer list, as will you. My husband has fought cancer so I know how daunting it is to stand by as your other half suffers. I will pray that God grant you special and astounding blessings during this time of trial and sadness — He has the power to do that.

  8. Glenn Fairman says:

    Your words bring comfort. Let it be so.

  9. I loved this essay — it brought to mind another of my favorite pieces of writing: William H. Gass’s essay “In Defense of the Book.” It was first published in Harper’s and I found it in “Best American Essays — 2000” It’s worth the price of that volume just to read this lovely masterpiece.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I may have found it online, Deana. Is this it? Gutenberg’s Triumph: An Essay in Defense of the Book. I’m going to convert this to Kindle format and read it tonight.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I just read “In Defense of the Book” which is a much larger essay than mine. Its paragraphs cover many subjects which are also touched on here at ST.

      Frankly, I am amazed this was published as the piece is much too literate for the vast majority of the population. And it was written in 2000 so the situation has only deteriorated.

      When I saw that Gass wrote a book about the problems of translating Rilke, my opinion of him rose further. For those who think German an ugly language, I can suggest they read Rainer Maria Rilke in the original. If they can’t understand it, have someone who speaks German read it to you and you will feel the beauty and emotion which a master of language can achieve.

      Thanks for the recommendation.

      • Generally speaking, the America’s Best Essays collection is quite good. I buy a copy every year. I can’t say the selections are at all conservative, but they are all literate and usually have something useful to offer. Glad you liked Gass.

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